Source: Humans of Pinas

“September 19, 1987, remnants of Marcos rightist vigilantes managed to put a fatal bullet to Lean’s face that pierced through his head, killing him instantly.

On his lap was a book on Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, which Lean was reading. His assassination marked the official separation of the critically supportive Left from the Cory Aquino administration.

But this is not about his death. This is about Lean’s life.

Lean had always been different. A cut above the rest. In grade 4, his parents were called to the principal’s office because he insisted on reading the Encyclopedia Britannica which was allowed only among the upper grades.

He had to find out what could cure his grandmother’s ailing cat. A borrowed encyclopedia from his cousin appeased Lean where he found the cure: cod liver oil.

Tsinelas 1

How do pigs give birth? Why did the moon always follow him? These and countless more questions were answered when his family was able to raise money to buy him his own encyclopedia.

Lean was insatiable at learning, but also at teaching. He was known to bring a whole group of classmates to his house to give tutorials. In UP, he would be found among clusters of students, talking about Trotsky, Karl Marx, even Mao, in his famous “tsinelas”

Tsinelas 2

Yes, Lean was the originator of “tsinelas” politics, attending classes, forums, meetings in his rubber slippers, even among the esteemed company of Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Diokno or Chino Roces.

He was a rockstar and his professors found him no less so. He was known to frequent the homes of then Dean Francisco Nemenzo to play chess in between talks of their visions for the future, or that of Prof. Randy David to play ping pong in between hearty talks on campus and national politics.

Ferdinand Marcos watched Lean’s rise closely, as closely as he did Ninoy Aquino. Lean was the one budding thorn that pricked the ego of the dictator.

Then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile was known to have invited Lean after he had a not-so-pleasant encounter with daughter Kristina in campus. Enrile wanted to see for himself what the dictatorship was up against.

Tsinelas 3

For it was Lean that led the historic May 1984 students march to Mendiola to protest tuition fee hikes, a first after Martial law was officially lifted in 1981 to have ended successfully after the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

The recapture of Mendiola was crucial because it was right at the doorstep of Malacañang. And Marcos didn’t like being threatened.

In a letter addressed to his wife Lidy in his detention cell 1985, after Lean was arrested during a rally he wrote:

“The struggle for freedom is the next best thing to being free.

“Many speculate where Lean would stand today amid all the killings, corruption; amid all the political accommodation and divisiveness charged against the Left. There is only one answer. He would still be making a choice for the next best thing: the struggle to be free from social injustice.”

(written by Lean’s friend, Cynthia Allanigue)